The Garrett County Commissioners unanimously approved a total capital and operating budget of $103 million this week. The fiscal 2023 budget represents $88.7 million in operating expenditures and $14.23 million in capital expenditures.
The adopted budget protects core services, exceeds maintenance of effort funding for public schools, provides a six percent cost of living adjustment for County employees, and holds the line on income and property tax rates.
According to the County’s budget message:
After nearly two years of dealing with a public health crisis, Garrett County Government remains fiscally stronger than ever. We are still able to provide the quality service that our taxpayers deserve and expect without increasing our property and income tax rates. Some of our one-time revenue streams are at record highs, and we are able to maintain a healthy $9 million rainy day fund.
These good fiscal times don’t come without its challenges. The biggest challenge at the onset of the budget process was national inflation at over 8% and the effects of it. Those include a dramatically altered labor force, highly disrupted supply chains, and major setbacks in the production process; all driving an uncertain economy. We remain highly aware of the economic challenges facing many of our residents, homeowners, and businesses with skyrocketing prices for housing, food, fuel, energy, and other essential products and services. Many businesses are still trying to navigate the long-term impacts of the pandemic that remain with us. With that in mind, we began the fiscal year 2023 budget process with caution to bring forward a responsible, forward thinking financial plan.
We continue to be optimistic, but still somewhat skeptical, about the financial outlook over the next several years. However, several unknowns and questions weigh heavily on our minds. Will the housing and rental market boom continue? Will our low unemployment rate continue to impact the ability of our businesses to find qualified workers? Will inflation continue to spiral out of control forcing us into another recession? What will the impact of the Kirwin Commission’s blueprint for educational funding be over the next several years? These are all questions that will need to be addressed, and depending on the answers, it could have a significant impact on our economy and future budgets.
We are pleased to present a total balanced fiscal year 2023 budget of $103 million which represents $88.7 million in operating expenditures and $14.23 million of capital expenditures. Some of the highlights follow:
- The budget includes an additional $685,000 of State mandates from outside agencies; five (5) new mandated positions and three (3) new mandated Police Accountability Boards were added.
- Fully funded all Education category budget requests (both Operating and Capital) to include funding the Board of Education $111,784 over the required Maintenance of Effort (MOE)
- Over $2.7 million will be invested in broadband and local business development.
- NO Real Property or Income Tax rate increase.
- Reduction of Ad Valorem Tax Rates in 5 Sanitary Districts.
- NO new General Fund debt
- Maintaining a $9 million rainy day fund.
As the private sector reacts to their own labor challenges, we are also pressured to retain and attract our workforce. In calendar year 2021, we saw the highest turnover rate ever with 62 separations from County Government. Local government is about providing services and without human resources that can’t happen. We are concerned for the future as it becomes more difficult to compete with wage inflation and attract the quality workforce our taxpayers deserve and expect. Therefore, we have included a 6% cost of living adjustment for our hard working and dedicated employees. We cannot say enough about the efforts and commitment of these individuals.